Democratic Nevada Sen. Jacky Rosen criticized the Biden administration for investigating Chinese solar companies for allegedly violating tariffs, during a Senate hearing Wednesday.
Rosen said she had “very serious concerns” with the Department of Commerce’s recent decision to probe whether several China-based solar companies had routed products bound for the U.S. through four southeast Asian nations — Cambodia, Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam — in an attempt to circumvent American duties placed on their goods. The Commerce Department announced it would open an investigation into the matter after American solar company Auxin Solar shared evidence of tariff violations.
“I have very serious concerns with the Commerce Department’s recent decision to initiate an investigation into solar panel imports,” Rosen told Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo during the Senate Commerce Committee hearing. “Already, as a result of Commerce’s decision, industry surveys indicate over 80% of U.S. solar companies report being notified of canceled or delayed panel supply.”
Rosen’s comments were in reference to reports from the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), a powerful renewable energy group that opposed the investigation. The group’s membership includes Chinese solar companies affected by the tariffs and U.S. utility companies that rely on cheap solar panels for industrial-scale projects.
“This will jeopardize tens of thousands of good-paying American solar jobs, could raise energy prices for consumers and also undermines the administration’s clean energy climate goals,” Rosen added, echoing comments from SEIA President and CEO Abigail Ross Hopper.
Raimondo responded to Rosen’s criticism, saying her hands were tied since the Commerce Department was legally required to investigate tariff violations.
Rosen’s questioning of Raimondo came as more than 50 clean energy industry executives descended upon Capitol Hill Wednesday, urging lawmakers to do whatever they can to end the investigation, Politico reported. SEIA general counsel John Smirnow said the executives were “storming” the Hill to explain the importance of the Commerce Department issuing “a negative preliminary determination immediately.”
But Mamun Rashid, the CEO of California-based Auxin Solar, which filed the petition to the Commerce Department, previously told the Daily Caller News Foundation that the case was “existential” for his company.
“When Chinese panels come into the United States through these third countries at prices below our bill of materials, we can’t compete,” Rashid said. “We can’t pay our employees a fair wage.”
“The trade data show it,” he added. “We are confident in our allegations and that is why Commerce is conducting the investigation.”
The SEIA and the American Clean Power Association, another powerful Washington, D.C. green energy group, have characterized Auxin’s petition as meritless.
Rosen added Wednesday that she was disappointed in the Biden administration’s decision to extend certain tariffs on foreign solar panels. President Joe Biden announced that he would keep, but loosen, Trump-era solar tariffs designed to protect U.S. industry and jobs in February.
China produces more than 90% of the global supply of solar wafers, a key component in panels, according to a 2021 analysis from the research service BloombergNEF.
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